Music Reviews

Body 11: Youth

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7734)
Aug 14 2013
Artist: Body 11
Title: Youth
Format: 12"
Label: Medical Records (@)
Rated: *****
Coming from Munich, Body 11 was the one-man project of Tim Stickelbrucks. They had only one four tracks self produced 7" EP out in 1988 and recorded some demo tracks on the same period which have been distributed only to friends but haven't been never officially issued. Medical Records is reissuing the whole recordings on high-quality 180gram 'milky clear' vinyl, containing ten tracks. Most of the tracks have a demo feeling where the urgency of communicate is overwhelming and the perfection of performance isn't the point but this isn't a matter of how perfect those tracks were as the late 80s e.b.m. was also like that: upfront vocals, distorted rhythms and in your face attitude. Most of the tracks gave me the impression to be inspired by Front 242 even if vocally tracks like "Marching" or "Under My Command" recall me Alan Vega's approach: you know, that sort of "I don't care" attitude. There are also synthpop oriented tunes ("Hearts" and the following "Fascination") as well as melodic e.b.m. ones ("You Better Leave Now"). The digital edition has an extra track titled "Nothing Happens" and it's a nice synthpop oriented one. If you are a fan of early Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, late 80s industrial (Wax Trax, Nettwerk) and early Skinny Puppy, you can check this release here
Artist: Erdem Helvacioglu & Ulrich Mertin (@)
Title: Planet X
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
'Planet X' is a collaboration between two highly renowned Turkish musician/composers ' guitarist Erdem Helvacioglu and violinist Ulrich Mertin. Helvacioglu's new-classical music has been called 'revolutionary', 'groundbreaking', 'luscious and unique' and completely arresting and disarmingly beautiful'. He's won numerous awards for his compositions. Mertin has worked with composers including Pierre Boulez, Gyorgy Kurtag, Helmut Lachenmann, and others. He's played with Ensemble Modern, musikFabrik, and the award-wining Hezafaren Ensemble, the leading contemporary music ensemble of Turkey. There is no lack of credentials between these two.

'Planet X' is a science fiction concept album. (Oh no, here we go'¦) From the back of the album cover: 'Without warning, a new object ' Planet X appeared in the heavens: a mysterious entity intruding upon a vast ancient system. Hailed as a paradise by some, an expeditionary force discovers instead that it represents a menace to human existence. Hunted by a superior alien intelligence an explorer is trapped and used as a test for the ultimate assimilation and extermination of humanity. This is the tale of his doomed fight, grasping for the last snatches of his soul.' Okay, I admit I like sci-fi as well as the next geek, but this smacks of shades of 'the Borg' from Star Trek, the Next Gen. 'Resistance is Futile; You will be assimilated!'

Be that as it may, this album isn't exactly what you might expect. It certainly wasn't what I expected. The music is Avant-garde, with a capital 'A'. On the first listen I couldn't make it all the way through. I opened my mind though thereafter, determined to not to be daunted by 'Planet X'. The opening piece is the title track, 'Planet X'. Besides some sonic rumblings, you get various kinds of string scraping, mournful viola and violin, snippets of guitar and other more spacey sounds. It's all rather abstract but for over nine minutes sets the tone for what's to come. 'The Hunted' sounds more like space music with sequenced electronics, tension guitar arpeggio, echoed drums in a martial rhythm, dramatic tremolo strings and other electronics.

'Gradual Annihilation of the Mind' is where things get really abstract ' squeaks, squeals, squalls from Mertin's playing, mad sawing, etc., and some banging. After some time Helvacioglu plays a simple minor key guitar ostinato. Nothing remains constant though as that morphs into something a lot more chaotic with strings gone wild and frenetic. It gets very, very noisy until just before the end when all that's left are a few fading guitar notes and some space ambience. 'Point of No Return' utilizes predominately reverse attack sounds (accordion?) with some guitar, and a little sonic seasoning with treated noise, and likely Mertin's violin (electronically processed) is in there somewhere. 'Elevation' is the shorted track at only 1:28 with a base of two heavily distorted bass notes and processed string, not much to this. 'A Particle in the Vastness of Space' sounds like it may have processed voice in it along with heavy slabs of treated and echoed noise. Mertin's viola returns playing an abstract doleful melody over these sonic rumblings as it increases in intensity then gradually subsides. Another transitional piece, 'Final Transformation,' nearly as short as Elevation' at 1:29 seemed to be just that; transitional as it builds with bellish sounds and rising mad-bowing string tension, then stops dead in space. 'Planet X' closes with 'Anima Aeterna' with a plucked viola phrase, slowly bubbling low bass, sequenced noise sweeps, processed distorted strings, more noise a really weird processed feedback riff and noisy percussion. The plucked viola phrase returns and is stretched through the vastness of space until it fades in the distance.

This is no easy listen. I can appreciate the work from a technical standpoint but the truth of the matter is, I just couldn't get into it. After the third time around I threw in the towel. You will probably like this if you're into Penderecki, Stockhausen, or Ligeti, all composers that I appreciated in years gone by, but seem to have lost my taste for of late. I doubt you will hear anything quite like this anytime soon. Challenging doesn't even begin to describe 'Planet X'. Maybe it's destined to become an avant-garde classic, but I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Artist: Rob Sparx (@)
Title: Babylonian EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Migration/NexGen (@)
Rated: *****
Another big little treat for your red-hot summertime comes from versatile UK producer Rob Sparx, who made the 8-bit spotted dubstep his Migration imprint (actually absorbed by US-based label NexGen) got famous for lay up for dub and reaggae roots by means of four impressive tracks. The strategies for this coalescence between dubstep and dancehall sonorities have been diversified: the most dub rooted one is the initial remake of a track by Symbiz Sound with Singin Gold on the microphone, which got wicked by bulldog shots and griming basslines, while the above-mentioned 8-bit sizzles spurt from "Look", second track of the EP, whose Rastafarian sparking rolls along a rising dubstep progression. Eastern melodic scents and ethereal female vocals blend in with Jamaican clouds on the following "Prayer For Life", which precedes another awesome lasso tightening around heart ofdub roots, that got pulled by Rob Sparx and MC Task aka Dubstitutes.
Artist: Jason Kahn (@)
Title: Open Space
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Editions
Rated: *****
I already spoke about the distinctive concept of composition by American Zurich-based musician Jason Kahn on the occasion of his release "Sin Asunto" for the appreciated Portuguese label Creative Sources, which involved four musicians in the musical translation of Kahn's graphical scores that "hover in the gray region between composition and improvisation" in Kahn's words. Some aspects could draw a possible analogy with Cage's aleatory music principles, but Kahn prefers to move on the threshold between free improvisation - as players can decide the way of translating graphic forms - and a set of rules for choral dynamics: his graphical scores are based on two parameters, time and intensity, which have been drwn on horizontal and vertical axes respectively. This sort of scaly time-line is the only permanent feature, whereas the composer put the interpretation of hyphens, clouds, swirls, crosses, circles, triangles, vectors and other symbols in the hands of each performers, who just know when to play and the intensity level on respective task time without knowing anything about the juxtaposition by other performers. Compared to the above-mentioned "Sin Asunto", Kahn conducts more elements (nine players including himself, the appreciated Australian pianist Chris Abrahams, Laura Altman's clarinet, Monika Brooks' accordion, Aemon Webb's guitar, Rishin Singh's trombone, John Wilton's percussions and electronics by Adam Sussmann and Matt Earle) on "Open Space", which got commissioned and performed on January 19th, 2012 at the now NOW festival in Sidney, so that the way the score inclunces dynamics is even more engaging, even if a large number of players came under request of Jason himself due to the fact he had to perform in a larger place. The final result and its charming dynamics will keep listeners stuck on headphones for more than an hour.
Artist: Foma (@)
Title: Open in Dark Room Only
Format: CD EP
Label: Ressonus Records (@)
Rated: *****
Foma is an electronic music project out of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic whose basic members are Jiri Tilgner and David Rambousek. Rambousek also happens to be the founder of the Czech label, Ressonus Records. This little EP was sitting under a pile of weightier stuff I was sifting through to review and I thought, 'what the hell, give it a shot' and popped it into the CD player. From the title I thought 'Open in Dark Room Only' was probably going to be dark ambient. Not necessarily so. The first track, 'Do It Again' with vocals by Czech-Finnish vocalist Sonja Neverstop is industrial trip-hop dark and moody synthpop that was absolutely brilliant! Whoa! Did this ever catch me by surprise. Great voice for this kind of stuff and wonderfully creepy arrangement. An absolute winner. The following track, 'Muoviset Sankarit,' is a little more uptempo electro still with Neverstop's vocals, this time spoken/rapped in a language I have no clue what it is. Kind of enigmatic. 'Morass' is spooky atmospherics set to a minimal beat, but where is Neverstop? I miss her already! This must be the experimental side of Foma. It develops a reggae-like rhythm towards the end. Eh, don't know about this one. 'Dark Room' is the most experimental piece on the EP and I didn't care a whole lot for it. Although there are interesting sonic elements (electronics, field recordings, samples) the drum machine and organish synth chord progression I found to be rather boring in its plodding pace.

On the positive side, I get the impression that 'Open in Dark Room Only' is just a taste of what Foma is capable of. More songs like 'Do It Again' and I'll be hooked. (Please guys, never stop using Neverstop!) I'd be interested in hearing what Foma has up their sleeve for a full album. The release is available as a free download and also as a handmade, limited edition CD from Ressonus.
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